Objective: To determine the optimal thresholds for intereye differences in retinal nerve fiber and ganglion cell + inner plexiform layer thicknesses for identifying unilateral optic nerve lesions in multiple sclerosis. Current international diagnostic criteria for multiple sclerosis do not include the optic nerve as a lesion site despite frequent involvement. Optical coherence tomography detects retinal thinning associated with optic nerve lesions.
Methods: In this multicenter international study at 11 sites, optical coherence tomography was measured for patients and healthy controls as part of the International Multiple Sclerosis Visual System Consortium. High- and low-contrast acuity were also collected in a subset of participants. Presence of an optic nerve lesion for this study was defined as history of acute unilateral optic neuritis.
Results: Among patients (n = 1,530), receiver operating characteristic curve analysis demonstrated an optimal peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer intereye difference threshold of 5μm and ganglion cell + inner plexiform layer threshold of 4μm for identifying unilateral optic neuritis (n = 477). Greater intereye differences in acuities were associated with greater intereye retinal layer thickness differences (p ≤ 0.001).
Interpretation: Intereye differences of 5μm for retinal nerve fiber layer and 4μm for macular ganglion cell + inner plexiform layer are robust thresholds for identifying unilateral optic nerve lesions. These thresholds may be useful in establishing the presence of asymptomatic and symptomatic optic nerve lesions in multiple sclerosis and could be useful in a new version of the diagnostic criteria. Our findings lend further validation for utilizing the visual system in a multiple sclerosis clinical trial setting. Ann Neurol 2019;85:618-629.
© 2019 American Neurological Association.